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Feb. 15, 2023

Discover the Fascinating South of Morocco: From Marrakech to Oases, Kasbahs, Mountains and Sand Dunes

Discover the Fascinating South of Morocco: From Marrakech to Oases, Kasbahs, Mountains and Sand Dunes

The south of Morocco typically comes 2nd to the north, which is an understandable question of practicality: the north is where so many of the famous sights are: Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Volubilis, Ifrane and, perhaps most of all, Fès. They are all relatively close together yet require a good solid week to cover, even just scratching the surface.

All of which may leave time for a day or two in Marrakech, the gateway to the south, but that's likely it. A traveller on a 7 to 10 day tour will likely then be heading back to the international airport in Casablanca and their trip home (or perhaps to their next destination!).

A 10 to 14 day itinerary will likely include more of the south, swinging down through Merzouga in the heart of the Moroccan Sahara, and then over to Aït Binhaddou and Ouarzazate, the centre of Moroccan movies, before moving on to Marrakech. With a lot of driving, you can cover that route in two days, allowing for a sleepover in a desert camp along the way.

However, there is more to the south and southeast than meets the eye. This is the heart of Berber culture and heritage in Morocco, with villages dotted all across the countryside, often hidden in secret valleys or up long, twisting roads. They are accessible, but you have to know where to find them, and even when you get there you'll need someone to welcome you into the village. This is where a stranger becomes a new family member, and it's like no other cultural immersive experience.

The south features the foremost hiking in Morocco, particularly around the Anti-Atlas or Low Atlas mountains, including Toubkal Mountain, the highest in North Africa. The little village of Imlil is the base for some fabulous hikes, from half-day trips to multi-day treks.

The region is dotted with historic kasbahs, market places, date groves, massive palm tree oases and henna fields. The roots of the Moroccan royal family are here, rising to power from the traditional town of Rissani, north of Merzouga. 

Hollywood royalty regularly comes through nowadays, in the film centres of Atlas Studios near Aït Binhaddou. Many travellers are aware that some of their favourite shows and movies have been filmed in Morocco; they need to come to the south to find the actual landscape and scenery.

Meanwhile another touch of modernity is the world's largest solar energy power plant, just outside of Ouarzazate: more a field of mirrors really, and an amazing sight to see in itself, capped by a 250m/820ft tall tower easily visible from the city.

Destination Morocco will always include elements of the south of Morocco to any traveller who has the time, and doesn't mind the driving distance, but they also encourage dedicated trips to the region, so you can really immerse yourself in the experience. This is a perfect example of finding areas off the beaten path, without the heavy tourism; a reward for the traveller in search of authentic, genuine experiences.

To hear more about it, one of Destination Morocco's guides, Driss Maaza, chatted with Azdean on Episode 28 of Destination Morocco podcast, tracing some of the historical connections amongst trading peoples and royalty, dating back many hundreds of years.

Uncovering the Fascinating South of Morocco: From Marrakech to Oases, Kasbahs, Mountains and Sand Dunes - Ep. 28

In this episode, as in real life, you'll travel along the same historic caravan route from Timbuktu to Marrakech that still exists today. Azdean and Driss uncover all kinds of activities, stunning views, places to go hiking, unique museums, and learn about an area that traditionally does not get quite as much attention as the north. You'll hear why Driss is the perfect person to describe this area and inspire you to visit. 

Sights and highlights mentioned in this episode (with Google Maps links):
Kasbah Amridil (Famous museum, featured in the film Lawrence of Arabia and on the 50 Dirham bank note)
Ksar Elkhorbat (ancient village and Berber museum)
Draa Valley (Palm tree oasis)
Solar Power station near Ouarzazate (incredible satellite view)
Imlil village (hiking base)
Toubkal mountain, highest in North Africa